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Thieves hit Chablis winery, stealing more than 1,000 bottles

Thieves entered Domaine du Château de Viviers undetected in the middle of the night and stole wines with a total estimated value of more than €50,000, said the Chablis producer.

Burglars targeted Domaine du Château de Viviers earlier this month and escaped with more than 150 six-bottle cases of its Chablis wines from the 2022 vintage.

Using the cover of darkness, they also took 225 magnums (150cl bottles) from the 2020 and 2021 vintages. 

Total ‘damage’ was estimated at more than €50,000 (£42,700), said Arnould Lefébure, manager and owner of Domaine du Château de Viviers, which works biodynamically and organically. 

‘This is a big shock for my wife and me, because it represents a lot of wine,’ Lefébure said. The winery made around 21,000 bottles in 2022, but only produced 1,500 bottles in 2021, including 100 magnums, due to frost damage during the growing season. 

Château de Viviers magnum

An example photo of one of the magnums, Côta Grand Claude 2020, including the distinctive blue wax capsule used across the winery’s wines. Photo credit: Arnould Lefébure / Domaine du Château de Viviers.

Police were investigating the burglary, which took place between around 1am and 4am on the night from the 4 to 5 March.

It is the latest example of wine being targeted by thieves, and the burglars appeared to demonstrate a high level of organisation.

Lefébure said, ‘They did the robbery with a lot of professionalism. They knew what they were doing, because I calculate that it’s more than three tonnes of wine. You cannot just put it in a small car, you have to use a real truck. And they had to put it in by hand because there was no other way.’

The magnums, in particular, would not have been easy to move, he said. ‘All of them are in wooden cases and you cannot carry more than two cases by hand because they are quite heavy, they are almost four kilos. 

‘To move 225 magnums like this, which were in separate wooden cases, probably they had to be at least four, five or six [people] to do that. So they were very well organised. We are discreet, we don’t have advertising outside.’

Wines stolen in the burglary had been awaiting shipment to China.

They included three main cuvées from the 2022 vintage – Côta Grand Claude, Sous les Plantes and Cuvée B&B – plus magnums of Côta Grand Claude 2020 and Poseidon 2021.

Lefébure said he currently has little hope of finding the stolen wines, but he added that the bottles have certain stand-out features, such as hand-made blue wax capsules and distinctive labels. 

‘So I may have some chance at one time to find people selling my wine somewhere.’  

He appealed to anyone with any information to get in touch with him at Domaine du Château de Viviers by phone or email. He added that he was confident of being able to identify the bottles from a photo.

Lefébure, an oceanographer and cofounder of non-profit organisation GoodPlanet Belgium, took over his family estate in 2019 and assumed direct control of the Domaine’s wine operations, which had previously been managed by Maison Albert Bichot. 

Alongside a switch to organics and biodynamics, he also launched a vine sponsorship scheme, which he said has around 400 sponsors. 

There has been a vineyard on the estate’s grounds since the 13th century, with vines thought to have been first planted by Cistercian monks of Pontigny Abbey.

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